Friday, March 4, 2011

A Writer's Community

What's a writing community? What does community mean?

Ideally, I think it means support and creative expansion.


I'm sitting in my study, having just had lunch with a good friend. My friend used to be an English professor of mine and periodically we get together for lunch. Usually, we find some cozy little-off-the-beaten path place. Right now, our "place" is a delightful, spacious sushi joint where you can eat like a queen for about ten bucks and where everything - the decor, the frosted glass on the walls - is just clean, gorgeous, and good-mood-provoking.

(For a few years, we frequented a Local Tea Room owned by two eighty-year-old British sisters named Lila and Mary. To get a pot of tea took about one hour and watching Lila - or Mary - make a slow, glacial crawl toward the table, the tray of food wobbling precariously in her determined grip, was excruciating. You never knew if she was going to drop the plate and have a stroke. Afternoons at the Local Tea Room usually ended in one of us just walking directly into the kitchen to see if Lila and Mary "needed any help" because two sandwiches should not take four hours to create, and because you're a caring person and don't want to watch ancient women die in front of you because you were the one who ordered tea in the first place.)

 So, my professor friend and I wound up talking about writing communities. From The Bloomsbury Group (founded by Virginia Woolf and frequented by Howard's End writer E.M. Forster) to the Beats (On the Road author Jack Kerouac and Naked Lunch's William Burroughs were buddies), community has played a tremendous part in nurturing writers. Because it's a great big world out there, and sometimes we just need to know that someone else has been there too, that someone else has had a similar experience. How do they say it? How do they use their words to express it? Those differences make for a wide bookshelf of experience.


I'm so alone. 


It's easy to feel that way sometimes. Who hasn't thought that? At the end of the day, sitting at your desk, staring into the pages of whatever novel or poem you've just come up with. Will anyone read it? Does it matter at all to say what you say and why?

The truth is that we're not so alone. I checked Facebook 931 times today, and I had not seen this particular friend of mine in almost six months. She's on there, but we haven't seen each other. And so sometimes Facebook becomes just another way to ignore connection, to stop putting good old-fashioned effort into seeing the people that we love. To stop building community in a real, human sense.

 Today at lunch, we discussed a common dream - a community of women writers who all strive to understand what the other one has to say. In my head, it usually takes place in a North Carolina kitchen, filled with the scent of baked bread or in a commune somewhere in the foothills of some unnamed place with Gorgeous Weather (the writer side of me WANTS cold, rainy, damp, cozy weather -  nothing like where I currently live). A place where book nerds and English majors and readers can curl up together and talk about what inspires us. Where we can know that our work - and our lives - do not go unnoticed.  That we can inspire ourselves and inspire others - and by having a rich community of other creative people, we can thrive even more in our own independent work.

Here's to community and following our noses to the scent of hot bread, cold rain, and a rich tapestry of writers. That writing community would include
  • people who love words and who get excited about them
  • a sense of possibility
  • a sense of EXCITEMENT. (What's going to happen next in your chapter?)
  • Carbs. Because what's good writing without a ton of starchy goodness? Nothing, that's what.
  • Women who understand the power of communication and community - and who yearn to discover more about that.
What does your dream writing community look like?

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